Talk of Gareth Bale’s exit from Real Madrid is once again heating up. Where could he realistically go? (Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
What do Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas, Raúl, Roberto Carlos and Gareth Bale all have in common?
They have all been Real Madrid superstars. And they have all, at one point or another, been jeered by the famously fickle crowd at the Bernabeu.
Bale received his first high-pitched whistling treatment just five months into his Real Madrid tenure, for the heinous crime of misplacing a pass against Granada. Another prominent show of disaffection from the Madridistas came during Los Blancos’ comeback victory over Real Sociedad last weekend, which marked Bale’s first appearance in seven weeks. When his name was read out prior to the game, the fans made their disapproval clear:
The 30-year-old was jeered once again when he replaced an injured Eden Hazard in Real Madrid’s midweek 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain, but came within a lick of paint of winning the stadium over once again with a last-second free kick:
Bale came desperately close to getting the fans back on his side, but resentment still flows through the stands following his international break antics. They have been hurt by his celebration with Wales international teammates while holding a flag that read “Wales, Golf, Madrid. In That Order.”
It’s quite understandable that fans would be disappointed in Bale’s perceived lack of commitment to a club that pays him nearly $450,000 a week after tax. Historically, Bale has also induced ire for his lack of integration in the team. In six years in Spain, he has not embraced the language, and has been publicly called out for failing to attend team bonding events. His injury record is also lengthy, putting him out of action for 78 games, according to Transfermarkt. Numerous comments have been made by his outspoken agent Jonathan Barnett, who has repeatedly antagonized manager Zinedine Zidane.
The flag may have done Bale no favors, but his general lack of appreciation in the Spanish capital remains baffling to neutral fans. After all, he has helped the club earn four Champions League titles, four FIFA Club World Cups, a La Liga title and one Copa del Rey.
He has scored in the finals of all the aforementioned knockout competitions, including a stunning solo effort in the 2014 Copa del Rey Final and a sublime overhead kick in the Champions League final.
While Bale’s attitude may not have been perfect, it is not his fault that he carries the burden of astronomical wages and a reported $1.3 billion buyout clause that makes it difficult for him to move on.
This summer, Bale was told he was not wanted by the club in no uncertain terms, only to see a potential move away blocked by his own board. He has been forced to stay in Madrid, under unwelcoming and hostile circumstances.
With this in mind, Bale has every right to be frustrated at his point. The “Wales, golf, Madrid” flag may have been interpreted as a slight on the club, but it could also be a player owning an insult that was placed upon him by the media. He has shown that he can brush off jeers and insults and still perform at a very high level, which speaks volumes for his fortitude and professionalism.
So, what next for the man who was once the most expensive player in the world? Let’s take a look through his options.
Gareth Bale could make a money-spinning move to China
One of the biggest factors preventing a transfer is Bale’s exorbitant wages. There are only a handful of clubs in the world who could pay him what he has become accustomed, which effectively rules out speculation of moves to clubs like Leicester.
Of course, money is not a problem for the Chinese Super League, where several high-profile players and managers have been lured. Bale was reportedly offered an eye-watering $1.3 million per week to join Jiangsu Suning over the summer, but Real Madrid’s board halted the move due to disagreements over the transfer fee.
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Bale has little left to prove on the European stage and could make an obscene amount of money under less strenuous circumstances in China. Evidently, his representatives are on board for such a move, too.
If an appropriate fee can be negotiated this summer, the only thing stopping Bale heading east may be an enticing offer from Europe.
Gareth Bale could return to Tottenham
Bale endured a wild ride in his six seasons at White Hart Lane. After Spurs failed to win in his first 25 appearances, the Welshman was said to be cursed. In his third season at the club, he was considered a “flop” who was nearly sold to Birmingham for £3 million.
After transforming himself from a marauding left back to a high-scoring winger, his fortunes changed. Bale is considered a legend in North London and would be welcomed with open arms if he were to ever return.
If Jose Mourinho is looking to ingratiate himself with the Tottenham fanbase, there is no one better he could sign. Mourinho is known to be a fan of the player, whom he reportedly tried to sign in 2017 before Madrid extended his contract.
However, the sticking point would be wages and fees. Tottenham notoriously pay their stars on the low end of the scale — only Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris currently earn six figures per week— and they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near Bale’s current remuneration package.
The Welshman might be willing to take a significant paycut to return to a club who have established themselves among Europe’s elite since his departure, but there is a more lucrative route back into the Premier League.
Might Jose Mourinho have his eye on bringing Gareth Bale back to Tottenham? (Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge)
Gareth Bale could move to Manchester United
If there is one thing that the Red Devils have proven in the post-Ferguson era, it is that they are not afraid to throw money at their problems.
Recent results and an unforced reliance on youth suggest Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in dire need of more proven quality in their squad.
Bale has been heavily linked with United in virtually every transfer window of the past few years and they would not balk at his wage demands. Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo are among those who believe United is Bale’s “premier option,” and they tout the attractive proposal of a swap deal involving Paul Pogba.
United, however, are a club in transition, who seem unlikely to be involved in European competition next season. In the autumn years of his career, Bale may wish to play with a team who have a greater chance of success on the big stage. Fortunately, there is another club in Europe who could offer big wages and a spot in the limelight.
Gareth Bale could try to bring glory to PSG
Qatari-owned PSG are one of the small cabal continental outfits who would be glad to deliver familiar-looking paychecks to Bale. And the Parisians can also offer Real Madrid something they might want even more than a few extra Euros in the bank: Neymar.
Los Blancos have made several attempts to sign the Brazilian over the years, who would undoubtedly be delighted to end his relatively unsuccessful spell in Paris with a return to La Liga. A swap deal involving Bale and Neymar would appear to make a lot of sense for all parties.
Such a deal was reportedly discussed over the summer and it may represent the very best option for the 30-year-old. There’s only one course of action that might be better for the Welshman.
Gareth Bale could see out his Real Madrid contract
The glamor of Paris may be alluring, but, as is so often true in life, the best option may be the least exciting.
Bale is under contract in Spain until June 2022. He is thought to be earning over $700,000 a week before tax, which is enough money to make any player endure a little hostility in the workplace.
Although Rodrygo is highly promising, Bale remains Madrid’s best option on the right. When he has been given game time recently, he has displayed superb form. Much like Robert Lewandowski, he can still perform at the very highest level in his early thirties.
The Welshman may never have a statue built in his honor at the Bernabeu, but if he can persevere and continue to let his feet do the talking, he can win back the Madridistas. He can leave with his head held high.
By completing his contract, Bale can serve out his best years in Madrid and continue to defy his critics. After that, he can choose whether his next club is a European giant, a moneyed Chinese outfit … or a seven iron.
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